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To paint or not to paint…that is the question!

I have just been uploading some finished paintings to a closed group to which I belong on Facebook. It struck me that there are many bands who I’ve seen, who I’ve sketched and photographed but that I have never painted. Most bands do not know of my existence and during a gig I try to be as inconspicuous as possible so many bands will not even know that I’ve been studying them! However there are plenty of bands who are gracious enough to allow me access to their sound-checks, some are generous enough to put me on the guest-list (although I almost always pay to get in) and one or two may wonder why I have not produced a painting from what may have been a terrific concert. To those bands and fans I make the following apology.

The atmosphere of the gig is crucial to my work. I have attended gigs which I have thoroughly enjoyed, which have been full of emotion and I have wanted desperately to express this on canvas but something about the lighting, the backdrop, my position in the audience or something just did not provide me with the visual material that I needed. Sometimes I know instantly that there is a painting in a particular gig…a fleeting change in the sky at both the Download Festival and at The Etihad Stadium had me scrambling for my camera to obtain reference material, for I knew I wanted to paint the stage against the dynamic sky. Other gigs provide a certain lighting which I immediately know I want to include and these have to be “recorded” in my memory for they are not always captured by my camera. During a sound-check, a particular stance or posture or the way a strumming hand or the fretting hand is held provide me with an idea of what must be incorporated into the painting. Now and again I kind of know, ‘damn, there’s no painting from this gig’. At the other extreme I almost cannot wait to get into the studio because I am so certain that a painting does exist somewhere in me from the gig. In between these extremes are a range of decisions that are made more gradually. Careful consideration of pages from my sketchbook, exploration of composition through digital manipulation of the night’s many photographs (I can take well over one hundred of one band in one night) and of course the vivid recall of memories and emotions from the concert all combine to reveal whether or not I feel that there is a painting from a particular performance. Some decisions take longer than others to make and usually once the decision is made to paint or not to paint the decision is final…but not always.

So there you have it, a great performance from the band, a warm response from the audience, an enjoyable and uplifting event for all concerned but I just didn’t like something about the visuals…and that’s enough to ruin any chance of a painting from that gig. To paint or not to paint? Artistically discerning or an appalling fusspot? Ho hum!